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How to make a New Year’s resolution – and stick to it

Updated on December 13, 2014
erinshelby profile image

Erin Shelby is a freelance writer. She blogs at

New Year's Eve in Singapore.
New Year's Eve in Singapore. | Source

Ever made a New Year’s resolution – only to have broken it before February arrived? You’re not alone. Here’s your plan to make a New Year’s resolution stick, no matter what you resolve.

Stop Making New Year’s Resolutions

Think about it this way: a New Year’s resolution is typically intent to stop a bad habit or to start a healthy habit. They’re normally things people do out of obligation because they feel guilty, unhealthy or unhappy. New Year’s resolutions are an effort to change years of habits – such as smoking, overeating, or lack of exercise – and when they’re not kept, people are somehow surprised. These resolutions aren’t fun to keep because they usually involve depriving oneself of pleasure or doing something that involves strict. Why do people make New Year’s resolutions? The rush of excitement brought on by New Year’s Eve or the desire to make a life change prompts people to do something. But there’s a better way.

Make a New Year’s Goal Instead of a Resolution

What’s the difference? Instead of resolving to getting rid of something bad or forcing yourself to do something you don’t want to, making a New Year’s Goal is the act of embracing something new that you’re truly excited about. It’s taking on something you really care about, not something that everyone else is doing. It’s unique to you, and it’s something that you’ll have the natural inclination to stick with. There isn’t a doctor, therapist or significant other making you change your ways. Making a New Year’s Goal is something you do because you want to.

What’s a New Year’s Goal?

Think about your interests and how you can realistically spend your time. For example, if you’ve always wanted to learn how to cook, and you know you could lose a few pounds, you could make it your New Year’s Goal to cook one dish per week that tastes great and is low in fat. With your interest in cooking and your desire to eat healthy, you’re taking on a fun, new experience. Does this idea excite you? Would you be willing to try it for a month? Do you think you would stick with it? If it doesn’t sound fun, it isn’t the right New Year’s Goal for you. A New Year’s Goal should be something that isn’t a punishment. Another New Year’s Goal could be to pursue a hobby or learn a foreign language. If you have a bucket list, examine it for inspiration to make the New Year great.

The London eye aglow on New Year's Eve.
The London eye aglow on New Year's Eve. | Source

Make Your New Year’s Goal Specific

Most people make vague New Year’s resolutions. “I’ll stop smoking”, “I’ll lose weight”, or “I’ll be better about my money”, they say. What does success look like in these situations? We know when a resolution has failed, but how do we know when we've been successful? This uncertainty probably makes many people stumble, so it's critical to define success.

How can you make your New Year’s Goal specific? Decide what success is by saying that losing a pound or two per week is success, if losing weight is the goal. Similarly, if your goal is to stop smoking, make your goal realistic by basing it on how much you smoke right now. If you currently smoke two packs per day, it probably isn’t realistic to curb that to a pack of day by the end of January. Be realistic about your expectations.

A Modest New Year’s Goal is Wise

As you decide on your New Year’s Goal, you may be tempted to go big due to the potential the New Year holds. This strategy can backfire as life gets in the way of success and stress can interfere with routines. Making small goals means goals are easier to obtain. The vast majority of people don’t keep their resolutions, so focus on a small, attainable goal for the month of January. As February approaches, consider how January went – did you accomplish what you set out to do? Did you go above and beyond? Did you fall short? You can always make your goals bigger, but starting small gives you a boost to keep your momentum.

New Year's Eve in New York City, New York.
New Year's Eve in New York City, New York. | Source

Set Yourself Up For Success

Whether it’s a resolution to quit an old habit or a goal to embrace something new, set you up for success by creating a plan. If you’re resolving to quit smoking, decide how you’ll conquer the cravings (cold turkey and willpower probably won’t cut it). If you’re resolving to lose weight, plan when you’ll shop for healthy food and how you’ll burn off extra calories. If you’re making a goal to become financially healthy, get your resume in order in case you lose your job. Set yourself up for success and you’ll get there.

Share Your New Year’s Resolution or Goal

Are you afraid that your New Year’s resolution will fail and you’ll be embarrassed? You’re more likely to succeed with your New Year’s resolution or goal if you share it with someone. Find support at the gym, at an addiction recovery group or on your computer on a discussion board. If you’ve decided to start a business, network with other entrepreneurs. If you’re learning a new hobby, find an experienced mentor. It’s harder to abandon a goal when others are awaiting your success. Similarly, if naysayers want you to fail, wouldn’t it be nice to prove them wrong?

Have you decided on a New Year's resolution or goal?

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© 2013 erinshelby


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    • erinshelby profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from United States

      10 goals, Diana? Very ambitious! Good luck!

    • Diana Lee profile image

      Diana L Pierce 

      6 years ago from Potter County, Pa.

      Goals are much easier to set than resolutions. I try to write a new list of 10 goals every year just to see if any are doable. Last year I amazed myself as to the things I could check off. This year wasn't as good with hardly a scratch on my list. Somehow I plan to do better in 2014. Good hub. Voted up.

    • erinshelby profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from United States

      Here's to a wonderful new year, everyone!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      6 years ago

      Looking at it as a goal may work better for people. Good suggestion on making it modest and realistic. I have not made one yet but I do have an idea.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      6 years ago from USA

      My New Year's Resolution is always the same and always out the window by Jan. 15. I am going to resolve this year not to resolve.

    • Eiddwen profile image


      6 years ago from Wales

      A beautiful and interesting hub Erin.

      Loved it and vote up for sure.


    • kidscrafts profile image


      6 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      I think it's important to share our New Year's resolution with someone else because it makes us accountable to what we promise our self to accomplish!

      Great suggestions! Thanks for sharing!

    • peachpurple profile image


      6 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      good tips and wise advices that i have ever heard. Thumbs up


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